Children Learn about Greek Mythology through Student-Led WesMyth Program

MacDonough Elementary School students Norma, Aiden and Marrisaana proudly display their Greek gods and goddesses during the WesMyth program, taught by Wesleyan student volunteers Sarah McCully '16 and Jack Spira '16. 

MacDonough Elementary School students Norma, Aiden and Marrisaana proudly display their Greek gods and goddesses during the WesMyth program, taught by Wesleyan student volunteers Sarah McCully ’16 and Jack Spira ’16. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

“Bubbletrapper” is the goddess of bubblegum and is always nice — except to bad guys.

“Bubblegum is her weapon,” said Marrisaana, a fifth grader at MacDonough Elementary School in Middletown. “When she’s mad, she traps bad guys in a bubble.”

5th grader Aiden shows off his mystical god, "Lione."

5th grader Aiden shows off his mystical god, “Lione.”

On Feb. 19, Marrisaana and four other classmates participated in Wesleyan’s WesMyth program, which provides fifth graders at McDonough with an introduction to Greek mythology. The program, taught by Wesleyan student volunteers, is held for one hour every week throughout the academic year.

On this particular day, the WesMyth participants created their own Greek gods and goddesses based on mythical creatures they’ve studied in weeks past.

“What will you name your god or goddess? What powers will he have? What will his personality be like? Would he be friends with Aphrodite?” asked WesMyth volunteer Sarah McCully ’16.

Fifth grader Aiden sketched a god named “Lione” who is half lion and half human. “Lione is the god of lightning, fire and nature. He’s cruel and likes to destroy things,” Aiden explained.

Fifth grader Norma created “Misty/GS,” the goddess of sky and ground. “She has a crystal and uses it to take the voice from others,” Norma said. “She’s sometimes nice, but can be mean too.”

McCully, who is majoring in archeology and classical civilization, hopes that the participants come away with an appreciation and fascination for Greek mythology, or an interest to learn more about the ancient world on their own.

“Learning about these myths was a gateway into classics and our pursuits at Wes for a lot of us, so it’s nice to introduce these kids to it,” she said.

Jack Spira '16 speaks to 5th grader Meadow about her mythical creature "Powerball," who is the goddess of fire.

Jack Spira ’16 speaks to fifth grader Meadow about her mythical creature “Powerball,” who is the goddess of fire.

The WesMyth program was created five years ago by Lauren Caldwell, associate professor of classical studies, with the support of Jon Romeo, principal at MacDonough Elementary School, and fifth-grade teachers. An eager group of Wesleyan Classical studies students creates a syllabus for each semester that includes mythological stories, games and craft projects. The group also visits Wesleyan’s Green Street Teaching and Learning Center and teaches Classical mythology to AfterSchool Program participants.

“Greek mythology is not commonly taught as part of the curriculum in elementary school, so we’re able to introduce the subject to kids who already know and love various superheroes from movies and cartoons and comics. They can relate to Hercules, for example, as the ‘world’s first superhero,'” Caldwell said. “So far, the teachers we’ve worked with have been really supportive because what the kids are learning about the Greek and Roman worlds can tie into social studies lessons and help reading comprehension skills.”

Sarah Hoynes ’16, Beth Alexion ’16, Jackson Barnett ’18, Catherine Kiall ’19 and Emma Graham ’19 also are active volunteers this year. “We’re always looking for more volunteers and sponsors,” Caldwell said. For more information email lcaldwell @ wesleyan.edu.

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5th grader Norma created “Misty/GS,” the goddess of sky and ground.

WesMyth participants play a game of Zeus on the Loose.

WesMyth participants play a game of Zeus on the Loose.

On Feb. 22, Lauren Caldwell, associate professor of classical studies, and seven of her students kept the children of Green Street's AfterSchool program entertained and inspired by their stories from Classical mythology, as well as with a host of games and activities involving ancient heroes, gods and monsters.

On Feb. 22, Lauren Caldwell, associate professor of classical studies, and seven of her students kept the children of Green Street’s AfterSchool program entertained and inspired by their stories from Classical mythology, as well as with a host of games and activities involving ancient heroes, gods and monsters.

Ben Saldich '19 works with Green Street Teaching and Learning Center students.

Ben Saldich ’19 works with Green Street Teaching and Learning Center students.